Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has accused “pitiful” rivals of being “dishonest” and playing “political games” as the FIA tries to help address the worst traits of the 2022 cars.
The new ground effect cars are low and stiff and suffered from a mixture of porpoising and poor overall ride quality.
Now that several drivers from different teams have complained of back pain and expressed concerns about the potential long-term consequences of driving such cars, the FIA has stepped in on safety grounds.
This will force teams to change their setups if found to be in breach of a yet-to-be-defined limit for the vertical oscillations riders can be subjected to, and is investigating potential changes to technical regulations for the future.
Some teams, including arch-rival Mercedes Red Bull, have either criticized the prospect of a mid-season rule change, expressed disappointment at the timing of the FIA’s technical directive on the eve of the weekend of the Canadian GP, or accused Mercedes of using the issue to try and secure a rule change that will fix the performance deficit it currently suffers from.
The situation appears to have come to a head in Montreal, where Wolff reportedly made his displeasure very clear at a meeting of F1 team bosses.
He said after qualifying in Canada: “It’s a sport where you try to maintain a competitive advantage or gain it, but this situation has clearly gone too far.
“All the drivers, at least one in each team, said they were in pain after Baku, struggling to keep the car on track or blurry vision.
“And the team bosses trying to manipulate what’s being said in order to keep the competitive edge, and trying to play political games when the FIA tries to find a quick fix to at least put the cars in a better position, is dishonest.
” That’s what I said.
“I’m not just talking about the Mercedes, all cars suffered in one way or another in Baku and still do here.
“The cars are too stiff, or the cars are bouncing, whatever you call it, because actually that’s a common problem we have in Formula 1.
“This is a fundamental design issue that needs to be addressed. We have long-term effects that we can’t even judge.
“Any time is a safety risk, and then coming up with little background manipulation or Chinese whispers or informing the driver is just pitiful.”
Red Bull and Ferrari are battling for the championship in Mercedes’ absence and any changes around the rebound issue may impact the dynamics of their battle.
After the previous race in Azerbaijan, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the FIA would be wrong to change the rules mid-season.
Whether it’s an aerodynamic or mechanical issue, teams with severe bounces might be forced to compromise their performance by increasing their ride height.
It was immediately speculated that Ferrari could suffer given that it has been one of the hardest hit by the porpoising – and its driver Charles Leclerc said this week in Canada that he disagreed with the involvement of the FIA.
However, Wolff and Mercedes have struggled to convince critics that their own motives are altruistic and not in their competitive interests either.
“Of course, people will wonder if my position is sincere or not,” admitted Wolff.
“That’s why I say it’s not just our problem.”
He quoted Red Bull driver Sergio Perez saying “you can even lose your sight while braking” and referred to comments from Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas) .
“It’s not just one team’s problem,” Wolff said.
“It’s a ground effect car design issue that needs to be resolved before we have a situation, whatever it is.
“And it’s not just putting the cars in place [in terms of ride height]because mounting the cars does not solve the stiffness of the inherent aerodynamic characteristics.